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7 November 1985
... lack of status as a biographer, it was also, I think, some measurement of where Bloomsbury stood in the scheme of things. Twenty-five years ago, Strachey’s books were not in paperback and Virginia Woolf was not the feminist idol she has since become. The reputation of E.M. Forster was in decline. The paintings of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were not privately collected and had been demoted to the ...

Ah, la vie!

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Lytton Strachey’s letters

1 December 2005
The Letters of Lytton Strachey 
edited by Paul Levy.
Viking, 698 pp., £30, March 2005, 0 670 89112 6
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... Lytton Strachey loved reading letters, including the published kind, but after glancing at a few sentences of George Meredith’s correspondence in 1912, he felt ‘so nauseated’, he told Virginia Woolf, that he shut the book at once: Is it prejudice, do you think, that makes us hate the Victorians, or is it the truth of the case? They seem to me to be a set of mouthing bungling hypocrites; but ...
19 April 1990
Letters of Leonard​ Woolf 
edited by Frederic Spotts.
Weidenfeld, 616 pp., £30, March 1990, 0 297 79635 6
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... LeonardWoolf’s earlier years coincided with the last great age of letter-writing. Moreover his friends were people who had what may now seem an unusually pressing need to keep in touch with one another, even ...

Wild Words

Stuart Hampshire

18 August 1983
A History of the Modern World: From 1917 to the 1980s 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 832 pp., £16.50, April 1983, 0 297 78226 6
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... by a primary loyalty to Stalin.’ There is an exasperated tension in Mr Johnson’s beliefs and the excitement keeps the narrative going, however unbalanced the judgments become. In fact, Keynes and LeonardWoolf, the only politically active members of Bloomsbury, were always very strongly anti-Communist, particularly Woolf, and that sinister upwards and downwards movement is a mere fever of fantasy, as ...

The Real Johnny Hall

Penelope Fitzgerald

3 October 1985
Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall 
by Michael Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 386 pp., £13.95, June 1985, 0 241 11539 6
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... When The Well of Loneliness came out in July 1928 the reviewers were not astonished. Both LeonardWoolf and L.P. Hartley thought the book sincere, but overemphatic. The Times Literary Supplement also called it sincere, and Vera Brittain said it was ‘admirably restrained’. It sold quite well, going ...

Smashing the Teapots

Jacqueline Rose

23 January 1997
Virginia Woolf 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 722 pp., £20, September 1996, 0 7011 6507 3
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... One of the strangest things Virginia Woolf ever did was to travel with Leonard to Germany for part of their annual holiday in April 1935. The vigour of German anti-semitism was by this point clear and Hitler’s power and at least some of his worst intentions towards Britain ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell

18 February 1982
‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf​ and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... Stephen Trombley does not quote this letter, but ‘madness and doctors and being forced’ crisply sums up the contents of his own angry book. Much of his study concentrates not on Virginia Woolf herself but on the views of several physicians who were consulted in her case (including the fortuitously named Savage), and who clearly inspired her bitter caricature of the profession in Mrs ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club

16 July 2014
The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club 
by S.P. Rosenbaum, edited by James Haule.
Palgrave, 203 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 137 36035 9
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... Emily died leaving everything to Canada and nothing to Forster, who was disappointed. The domestic and sexual permutations would have caused no consternation among listeners who included Virginia and LeonardWoolf and Clive Bell. Nor, perhaps, would Forster’s own discomfort with the question of Sex, which played a large, complicated part in his own life: ‘You work it out,’ his essay goes on: ‘I ...

Strenuously Modern

Rosemary Hill: At Home with the Stracheys

3 March 2005
Bombay to Bloomsbury: A Biography of the Strachey Family 
by Barbara Caine.
Oxford, 488 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 19 925034 0
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... War, the Stracheys were prominent in English life. Noted for their intellect and their boisterousness in argument, and characterised, in most cases, by long limbs and large spectacles, they struck LeonardWoolf as ‘much the most remarkable family I have ever known’. His wife, on the other hand, who knew several Stracheys well, thought them ‘a prosaic race, lacking magnanimity, shorn of ...

Sonata for Second Fiddle

Penelope Fitzgerald

7 October 1982
A Half of Two Lives: A Personal Memoir 
by Alison Waley.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 297 78156 1
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... knowing the Farjeons, knowing the Sitwells) which would have recommended her. And she did not fit into the role for which Arthur’s friends had cast him. The part of serious Jews (Waley himself, LeonardWoolf, Mark Gertler) was to be in attendance on disaster, and to pick up the brilliant pieces. All that Alison could do, after she had separated from her husband, was to bring up her child and wait ...

Sidney and Beatrice

Michael Holroyd

25 October 1979
A Victorian Courtship: The Story of Beatrice Potter and Sidney Webb 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £5.50
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... courtship. In the opinion of Shaw, ‘if all marriages were as happy England, and indeed the civilized world, would be a Fabian Paradise.’ Sidney’s part seems to have been similar to that of LeonardWoolf in the support each husband gave to an exceptional wife. It is our loss that Jeanne MacKenzie has not entered this Fabian Paradise and presented the choice between Mrs Webb and Mrs Woolf that ...

A Plumless Pudding

John Sutherland: The Great John Murray Archive Disaster

18 March 2004
... Educational and Virago. It isn’t hard to see why the parent firms were disposed to part with their records at this time. In 1945, Chatto (founded in 1855) had absorbed the Hogarth Press (begun by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1917). In 1969, Chatto and Cape (founded 1921) merged, aiming, as they hoped, to maintain separate identities within their coalition. The union was enlarged by Bodley Head in ...

Who is Laura?

Susannah Clapp

3 December 1981
Olivia 
by Olivia.
Hogarth, 109 pp., £4.50, April 1981, 0 7012 0177 0
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... sent to Gide 19 years earlier – ‘Oh how could I be so idiotic?’ – and which Gide had stuffed in his desk drawer, had at last been shown to friends in London. Rosamond Lehmann had praised it; LeonardWoolf wanted to publish it. The story was Olivia; the author, anonymous on publication in 1949, was Dorothy Strachey Bussy, Lytton Strachey’s sister. Olivia is a piece of spirited homage, by a ...

At the NPG

Jean McNicol: ‘Virginia Woolf

10 September 2014
... On​ 16 October​ 1940 the house in Tavistock Square in which Virginia Woolf had lived for 15 years was destroyed by a bomb. The first image in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision (until 26 October), which claims to provide ‘a visual narrative akin to a portrait’ by looking at ‘telling ingredients in each period of her life’, is a blown-up ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen

6 April 1995
Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... In 1978, at a seminar on John Maynard Keynes held by the University of Kent, Raymond Williams talked about ‘The Significance of Bloomsbury as a Social and Cultural Group’. He accepted LeonardWoolf’s characterisation of Bloomsbury as consisting ‘of the upper levels of the professional middle class and county families, interpenetrated to a certain extent by the aristocracy’ with ‘an ...

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